Monday, December 04, 2006

Dilip Vengsarkar Returns To The Bad Old Days

X had his say on the issue here, for the first time in his life his views were balanced and subdued. His replies to comments on this blog are a testament to his fiery nature.

Talking of fiery, I'm fired up. Dilip Vengsarkar and his new selection committee have taken Indian cricket back to the dark ages. Back to the day when selection for Team India was based on who you knew rather than merit. The days when selectorial whims were given higher priority than talent. The days when "for the good of Indian cricket" was just a pretty phrase that held no significance for the 5 wise men.

All the commendable weening performed by Kiran More and his gang, spurred in no small manner by Greg Chappell, has been wholly and drastically undone in the space of two selection committee meetings. More and co were eventually persuaded to take tough decisions for the benefit of Indian cricket. The twin goals of ridding the team of conflicting influences and under-performing stars and injecting fresh talent were successfully achieved.

Players like Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Zaheer Khan and Anil Kumble were jettisoned from one or both teams (Test and ODI) for a multitude of reasons that included fitness issues, prolonged loss of form and attitude. The new talent that took their place was asked to exhibit the right attitude and a willingness to learn and develop their games. Along the way the new blood was also given the opportunity to display flashes of brilliance.

After achieving resounding success in their first season, man international cricketers have found the going a lot tougher in the subsequent period. Opposition teams work on the player's weaknesses and/or the player may also lose the touch that had initially befriended him.

Question being, after you have decided to bite the bullet and commit your resources to developing new talent, would not your investment in youth be better served by creating and testing a pool of new players, in the event that one or two of them lose form or are found to be unfit for international cricket? If a young player has lost form after an extended run, would it not make more sense to ask him to return to domestic cricket whilst replacing him with a another talented young gun who has been performing as well, if not better than the experienced players that were initially dropped?

Most people would answer with a resounding, YES!

What has Sourav Ganguly achieved in domestic cricket to warrant a recall to the national team? A solitary century at a strike rate of under 50, against an attack of Ashish Nehra, G Singh, J Sharma and and R Sharma does not maketh a champion again. Anybody who thinks that Ganguly is back in form is kidding themselves.

While Ganguly is pointing to a lone century, what magnificent feat has VVS Laxman performed over the last two months in domestic one day cricket to earn a recall to the ODI team? Absolutely nothing. When he was given a chance to prove his ODI credentials, his fitness (surprise, surprise) was found wanting. Surely, it would have made more sense to replace Rahul Dravid with any one of Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa or even Rohit Sharma. My exasperation at the selection of Kumble, Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik does not need to be repeated.

Furthermore, what was the rationale behind handing the vice-captaincy to Laxman? I have been opining for some time that Virender Sehwag (and Suresh Raina, for that matter) needs to play some domestic one-day cricket to find his touch again and work out exactly what works for him in the shorter version of the game. However, was it really necessary to strip him of the vice-captaincy just before he was required to lead his team on the field of play for the remainder of the ODI series. Was it necessary to give it to a man who is not guaranteed a place in either team? I think not.

A struggling team is not going to be helped by the presence of out-of-form players, no matter how experienced they may be. Experience has its place in sport, but, not if it is not supported by form.

The only clear signals emanating from the Vengsarkar selection committee is that if you engage in enough politicking through the media and can produce one significant performance in a whole year of domestic cricket, you will have done enough to qualify for selection to Team India. Hell, Laxman has proved that you do not even have to score meaningful runs to earn an esteemed leadership position with the team's management structure.

We all rejoiced when many of the old ills of Indian cricket ended with the inception of the John Wright era. We can all cringe now, for those very ills are well and truly back.

Thank you Dilip Vengsarkar, you are doing Indian cricket proud.

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